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The importance of breastfeeding

Find out about the importance of breastfeeding for you and your baby, and where you can get advice and support.

Breastfeeding is important for you and your baby. Your breast milk protects your baby against lots of illnesses and conditions. It’s designed to meet your baby’s every need.

Why breastfeeding is good for your baby

Your breast milk contains essential enzymes, hormones and antibodies. These are vital for your baby’s normal growth, development and good health. Breast milk is tailored for your baby and their stage of development. It changes as your baby grows to meet their needs and protects them from illness.

When you come into contact with a virus or bacteria, your body will make antibodies to protect itself. These antibodies are passed into your breast milk so your baby is protected too. Despite years of research, science still can't replicate this.

Breast milk is good because it:

  • helps to protect your baby from illnesses such as chest, ear and tummy infections
  • reduces your baby’s risk of constipation or an upset tummy
  • reduces the risk of obesity for your baby when they are older

Obesity prevention

Breastfeeding has an important influence on reducing and preventing obesity.

This is because:

  • breast milk contains hormones that programs your baby's regulation of food intake
  • breastfed babies control the amount of milk they consume and finish feeding when they're satisfied. This helps them to control appetite from a very early stage
  • both amniotic fluid and breast milk can introduce tiny amounts of flavour. This can influence taste preferences and food choices after weaning onto solids

Breastfeeding is a good start in setting up appetite controls in the baby. But many other factors (such as lifestyle and nutrition) influence your baby as they grow up too.

Why breastfeeding is good for mothers

Breastfeeding is important for mothers too.

Breastfeeding:

  • helps your uterus (womb) return to normal size more quickly
  • helps you bond with your baby
  • reduces your risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and diabetes
  • saves you time and money
  • is convenient, no need to carry bottles and formula with you when out and about
  • is ready when baby needs it at the perfect temperature with no need to sterilise
  • burns calories and may help you regain your pre-pregnancy weight

Getting help

While breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed your baby, it's a skill that you and your baby learn together. With the right help and support, you can start breastfeeding and continue for as long as you want to.

Talk to your nurse, midwife or GP about breastfeeding during your antenatal care.

Join a breastfeeding support group.

Page last reviewed: 15/03/2019
Next review due: 15/03/2022

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